Heroes – Mrs Van Gogh

van gogh headstone

Our Heroes guest series continues today with a powerful tale from Katie, aka HRHopeful. I’ve been to the building from whence this tale emerged and it is well worth a visit. Not before reading this though, take it away Katie…

On seeing Doug’s invitation to write about a hero I jumped in. There are tons of people I admire and look up to; but when I really started to think about it I realised…none of them are actually heroes to me. They are people that have done remarkable things with their lives but not necessarily heroic.

I didn’t want to let him down so I took a moment to reflect on what would be considered an heroic act, and I was drawn to an experience I had not very long ago in Amsterdam……in an art gallery!

My husband had suggested that we visit the Van Gogh museum, now I wasn’t thrilled by the prospect. In truth I’m not a fan of art galleries; it’s something about the enforced silence, and the shuffling around like herds of cattle desperately seeking a connection or emotive reaction to a canvas. I prefer photography, I like what I’m looking at to be real, truthful – that’s where I find my emotional connection. But, I love my husband and therefore conceded.

I was actually pleasantly surprised by the experience. The gallery was split into ‘life’ sections so you learnt all about the different periods of Van Gogh’s life. The time when all he drew were peasants, trying to capture their souls on canvas, his move to Paris and his friendship with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, his unfortunate deterioration in health and his move to Saint-Remy to seek medical attention. The paintings were (mostly) beautiful, but it was the story that captured me.

All throughout there was a common thread about Vincent’s relationship with his brother Theo. They were obviously very close and throughout their lives wrote endless letters to each other. It was extremely touching, and reminded me of my own sibling relationship.

The last section dealt with Van Gogh’s death at age 37, after seeing some of his last paintings I turned a corner in the gallery and was confronted with a mammoth canvas showing the above photo.

Theo Van Gogh died six months after his brother and was originally buried elsewhere. His wife Johanna Bonger had his body exhumed and moved to be with his brother.

Johanna is my hero, because in that moment in an overcrowded (but oddly silent) art gallery I had an emotional connection. Her actions were purely out of love and understanding. She put her own needs aside in order to ‘do the right thing’. She then tirelessly worked to ensure that Vincent was recognised for the amazing artist he was.

In work we can so often be told to think about ‘the bigger picture’, ensure we ‘think strategically’ but sometimes it’s just about doing the right thing; putting our own agendas to one side for a moment.

So perhaps one day a stranger will read your story and have an emotional connection with your actions…that’s what makes a hero.

3 thoughts on “Heroes – Mrs Van Gogh”

  1. What a thoughtful post, thanks Katie.

    For me, a hero is someone who has acted with great personal integrity in spite of whatever challenges they face. As well as the big acts we read about, this could be the simple things, the small and seeminlgy insignificant acts, that when done with love in the heart turn it into a heroic act. People all around us are capable of heroic acts all the time, but we have to open our eyes to them to we can see them for what they are… a, normal, everyday, joe blogs, hero 🙂

  2. Sara
    Thank you for your comment. I totally agree with you, there are heroes all around us and we should take more time to recognise them, and to thank them. Being in HR I sometimes find we can dwell on the acts and behaviours that don’t conform rather than celebrating those individuals who go above and beyond.
    I would love for my legacy to be that I acted with integrity, passion and above all a caring attitude to all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *